I’ve said it often and it’s true – this really is my favorite time of year, despite the terrible weather. I am all about Oscar season.

This season, though, I’ve fallen pretty far behind, due to my schedule at work. Working 2:00-10:30 PM makes it all but impossible to see any movies any day but my days off. But I’ve been trying, and I’ve seen a very good amount of films.

Here is my annual list of picks and predictions. The bolded films are the ones I’ve seen.

Best Motion Picture of the Year:
BABEL
THE DEPARTED
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
THE QUEEN

My prediction: Surprisingly, this is the one race that is pretty wide open. The awards have been pretty spread out — Babel took the Globe for drama, Little Miss Sunshine won both the SAG award AND the Producers’ Guild Award, in a shocker, and The Departed and Letters from Iwo Jima both could win easily. But I have a hunch that the vote will be split between Babel and the surging Little Miss Sunshine, and The Departed will sneak through and grab the Oscar.

My pick: I just saw Babel and loved it — LOVED it — and loved Little Miss Sunshine as well, but it’s all about The Departed this year. That movie is amazing. And that’s not just because the thrown-off-the-building scene was filmed RIGHT DOWN THE STREET from where I work.

Who won’t win: The Queen is the only film I can guarantee will not win the Academy’s top honor.

Achievement in Directing:
Alejandro González Iñárritu – BABEL
Martin Scorsese -THE DEPARTED
Clint Eastwood – LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
Stephen Frears – THE QUEEN
Paul Greengrass – UNITED 93

My prediction: This is Marty’s time. It doesn’t hurt that the award will be presented by Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas. Can you imagine?

My pick: Martin Scorsese, 100%. I loved the flow of The Departed, and how everything cut. I loved the performances, even though Jack took it too far. I loved how Boston the film was! He got it perfect.

Who won’t win: Paul Greengrass’ nomination is his award.

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role:
Leonardo DiCaprio – BLOOD DIAMOND
Ryan Gosling – HALF NELSON
Peter O’Toole – VENUS
Will Smith – THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS
Forest Whitaker – THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND

My prediction: I don’t think Peter O’Toole’s sentimentality will get him through. This award truly belongs to Forest Whitaker, a veteran whose culminating performance IS that good.

My pick: I haven’t seen enough of the nominees to fairly answer this — but I do hope Forest Whitaker wins.

Who won’t win: Will Smith. Though he’s been nominated for an Oscar once before (for Ali), again, the nomination is his award.

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role:
Penélope Cruz – VOLVER
Judi Dench – NOTES ON A SCANDAL
Helen Mirren – THE QUEEN
Meryl Streep – THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
Kate Winslet – LITTLE CHILDREN

My prediction: This role has been Helen Mirren’s from the very beginning. Bravo — after a career like hers and a performance like that, she deserves it.

My pick: I do believe that Helen Mirren deserves the Oscar, but I also loved Kate Winslet’s heartbreaking performance in Little Children. Kate is always fantastic at whatever she does, and while this role wasn’t the capstone of the movie like Helen Mirren’s was, she plays the “gray roles” so well — she was perfect as a desperate woman and halfhearted mother.

Who won’t win: Sorry, Dame Judi — you were one freaky lesbian, and you’ve already got your Oscar. We only expect greatness from you.

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role:
Alan Arkin – LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
Jackie Earle Haley – LITTLE CHILDREN
Djimon Hounsou – BLOOD DIAMOND
Eddie Murphy – DREAMGIRLS
Mark Wahlberg – THE DEPARTED

My prediction: Eddie Murphy, and with a career like his, it’s time. He fit the role of Jimmy Early like a glove. This is becoming one of the tougher categories to call, however, the other performances are universally fantastic, and none stand out over the other.

My pick: All five were fantastic. This is the toughest category this year. I loved Dreamgirls, and loved Eddie Murphy, but I have to give a slight preference to Jackie Earle Haley, who gave one of the creepiest performances I have ever seen as the local pedophile just released from prison — and that scene when he goes to the community pool and swims with the children and none of the parents notice is the most skin-crawling scene I have ever seen on film, period.

Who won’t win: Djimon Hounsou, but only because he has the least accolades of the five.

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role:
Adriana Barraza – BABEL
Cate Blanchett – NOTES ON A SCANDAL
Abigail Breslin – LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
Jennifer Hudson – DREAMGIRLS
Rinko Kikuchi – BABEL

My prediction: Jennifer Hudson has had this sewn up since before Dreamgirls was even released. BUT I wouldn’t be surprised if her overexposure results in an unforeseen UPSET — taken by Rinko Kikuchi, who is the critics’ favorite.

My pick: When I first saw Signs, I was impressed by nobody as much as Abigail Breslin. I knew she’d be going on to huge things — and this nomination proves it. However, while I first liked Jennifer Hudson best, I’m going to have to go with Rinko Kikuchi. Her performance as a deaf teenager who longs for intimacy is Babel’s most stunning performance in a film with stunning performances by fellow nominee Adriana Barraza, as well as Brad Pitt. Every one of her facial expressions demonstrates her inner desperation to be loved.

Who won’t win: Cate Blanchett. She might as well be nominated for three great performances this year (Notes on a Scandal, Babel and The Good German), but none are anything more extraordinary than her Oscar-winning turn in The Aviator.

Adapted Screenplay:
BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN
CHILDREN OF MEN
THE DEPARTED
LITTLE CHILDREN
NOTES ON A SCANDAL

My prediction: A tough call, but The Departed will take this. I seriously doubt that Borat will upset, as some people believe, but if not, it will be Children of Men.

My pick: The Departed does deserve it, but I also loved the dry, witty narrative in Little Children, as well as the flawed characters, none of which you could agree with on any level, yet somehow you rooted for them all.

Who won’t win: Notes on a Scandal. A lovely little British movie (or as lovely as you can get with Dame Judi as a stalker lesbian) — nothing more.

Original Screenplay
BABEL
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
PAN’S LABYRINTH
THE QUEEN

My prediction: It’s between Little Miss Sunshine and The Queen. I think Little Miss Sunshine is going to take it.

My pick: Look no further than the dinner table scene in Little Miss Sunshine. In that first scene, you learn absolutely everything about each character and the dynamics in the family. And it’s one of the best-written comedies in years, in addition to being a feel-good movie that will get the Academy voting.

Who won’t win: Babel. Though in another year it could win, the competition is too fierce.

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score):
BABEL
THE GOOD GERMAN
NOTES ON A SCANDAL
PAN’S LABYRINTH
THE QUEEN

My prediction: Very tough — but I think this is one award going to Pan’s Labyrinth. If not, then Notes on a Scandal.

My pick: I absolutely LOVED the song at the end of Babel — I remember thinking, “I have to find this as soon as I get home” — but in terms of the best score, I think that Notes on a Scandal was the best of the group.

Who won’t win: The Queen. It will win for other awards.

Best Documentary Feature:
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS
JESUS CAMP
MY COUNTRY, MY COUNTRY

My prediction: An Inconvenient Truth. Many, many reasons why.

My pick: I didn’t see any of them, but I heard that Deliver Us From Evil focuses on the life of an admitted pedophile priest who discusses the sexual urges he can’t control — now, that’s as edgy as documentary filmmaking can get!

Who won’t win: Any of the others.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year:
AFTER THE WEDDING
DAYS OF GLORY (INDIGÈNES)
THE LIVES OF OTHERS
PAN’S LABYRINTH
WATER

My prediction: Pan’s Labyrinth will deservedly win.

My pick: I didn’t like Pan’s Labyrinth as much as the masses, but a movie that had that much appeal in the U.S. deserves to win.

Who won’t win: Water.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year:
CARS
HAPPY FEET
MONSTER HOUSE

My prediction: Cars

My pick: N/A

Achievement in Art Direction:
DREAMGIRLS
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
PAN’S LABYRINTH
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST
THE PRESTIGE

My prediction: Pan’s Labyrinth

My pick: Dreamgirls

Achievement in Cinematography:
THE BLACK DAHLIA
CHILDREN OF MEN
THE ILLUSIONIST
PAN’S LABYRINTH
THE PRESTIGE

My prediction: Children of Men

My pick: N/A (Although, did you know that this is the first year ever that this category does not feature any of the Best Picture nominees?)

Achievement in Costume Design:
CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER
THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
DREAMGIRLS
MARIE ANTOINETTE
THE QUEEN

My prediction: Dreamgirls

My pick: DREAMGIRLS!!!! Each year has a movie whose costumes I literally drool over — and there were puddles all around me this year!

Achievement in Film Editing:
BABEL
BLOOD DIAMOND
CHILDREN OF MEN
THE DEPARTED
UNITED 93

My prediction: Babel

My pick: Babel or The Departed — both did VERY well, but I’ll give Babel the edge.

Achievement in Makeup:
APOCALYPTO
CLICK
PAN’S LABYRINTH

My prediction: Pan’s Labyrinth. Nobody’s giving anything to Mel Gibson, and Click would be beyond embarrassing.

My pick: Pan’s Labyrinth

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song):
“I Need to Wake Up” – AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
“Listen” – DREAMGIRLS
“Love You I Do” – DREAMGIRLS
“Our Town” – CARS
“Patience” – DREAMGIRLS

My prediction: This is hard. I think the Dreamgirls songs will cancel each other out and Our Town will take the prize.

My pick: I absolutely love Patience, but it’s not that innovative of a song — at least Listen is a really, really powerful. Even if you hate Beyonce, forget it’s her for a bit.

Achievement in Sound Editing:
APOCALYPTO
BLOOD DIAMOND
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST

My prediction: Letters from Iwo Jima — military movies usually win this category.

My pick: Pirates!!

Achievement in Sound Mixing:
APOCALYPTO
BLOOD DIAMOND
DREAMGIRLS
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST

My prediction: Dreamgirls is the type of movie that usually wins this category, but I will predict Pirates.

My pick: Pirates….arrrrgh!

Achievement in Visual Effects:
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST
POSEIDON
SUPERMAN RETURNS

My prediction: Superman Returns

My pick: Pirates!! Who could forget the scene with the rolling water wheel?

I’m not predicting the shorts this year — not enough time. And I’m not going to make solid predictions, either — just what I said above.

I actually switched shifts with one of my coworkers so I could see the Oscars this year (Michael Terry is nothing short of AWESOME) and I plan to be watching from my bedroom, splurging on some takeout. Won’t that be fun? I’m toying with the idea of live blogging, but I’m an Oscar purist, so I have the feeling it won’t be happening. I’d rather watch all by myself.

Oh, one more set of predictions: the best dressed tomorrow night will be Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, and Jennifer Hudson. The worst will be Rinko Kikuchi. Heh. She loves her crazy Chanel couture!

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